Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: 'City in the Desert: The Monster Problem' by Moro Rogers

And from the mingled blood of man and the evil one, Iriaze raised a horde of monsters...
And from that time on, the world was full of monsters.

Monster hunter Irro and his assistant Hari have a pretty good life, all things considered; they get to hunt monsters. But they may be the only people in the city of Kevala who are making a decent living.  When a religious sect promising relief from the burden of worry comes to Kevala everything changes. Everyone is smiling and relaxed, but Irro knows there is something sinister afoot and he and Hari are determined to uncover the truth.

Graphic Novel newcomer Moro Rogers has crafted an intriguing story that draws readers into a strangely familiar world peopled with monsters and monster hunters. Irro comes from a long line of monster hunters but has come upon harder times as monster attacks increase and hunters are eliminated. The increase of attacks has isolated Irro's home base of Kevala; they have not had a caravan travel by in almost a year. The isolation is beautifully depicted by Rogers' sepia toned art.

One of The Monster Problem's biggest strengths is the relationship between Irro and Hari. Hari is something other than human - she has a tail and claws, but Irro treats her as a person. Rogers has done a wonderful job of crafting the relationship between these two characters using language as well as image. The humor of their dialogue gives readers a depth of character often lacking in graphic novel text. This playful tone is carried over into the art itself: a bored Irro walks through a character's speech balloon, preventing the reader for seeing all the text and visually illustrating Irro's lack of attention. Hari's facial expressions are spot on with her comments; rue, humor and confusion are beautifully depicted.

But not all is action and humor in the city of Kevala. There are some darker elements at work here: a spreading confusion among residents and lack of response to physical threats that allow the reader to become aware of the threat posed by the Way of Sacred Peace well before Irro and Hari. Hopefully, further development of these threats is something that readers can look forward to in City in the Desert's next installment.

This is a fun, well-crafted and beautifully illustrated graphic novel that I'll be encouraging my teens to try.

Reviewer: Rebecca
Book Source: Local Library

Recommended Ages: 15+
Recommended for Readers of: